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Willie Nelson
Countryman
Lost Highway Records
www.willienelson.com


The first thing that came to mind was something like, "what a terrible idea this is… Willie Nelson doing a reggae record." Of course, there are a few little synchronicities that make the record make sense from a purely logical standpoint - notwithstanding the Redheaded Stranger's penchant for the kind bud … But from about the third note of "Do You Mind Too Much If I Don't Understand" I was hooked one hundred percent. This record brings perspective to the indigenous folk music of Jamaica and how it relates to the folk musics of America. It seems that reggae isn't such a far throw from country after all, and the musical styles can become quite complimentary at their basic form. Take for instance the very Appalachian version here of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" based in acoustic guitar and highlighted with some brilliant dobro lines. Gospel chorus-style background vocals complete the very Americanized feel of the great tune. Or witness the heavily reggae-ized version of the Johnny Cash classic "I'm A Worried Man" featuring guest vocals by Toots Hibbert (of Toots & The Maytals fame). This version hits an easy, near-dub groove at moments, but relies on soulful question and response vocals between Toots and Willie to really carry the song to an almost rapturous level. My favorite moment on the record is when Willie breaks into his own "One In A Row", letting the clever lyrics slip from his lips while a very bouncey beat carries the song into an entirely new dimension…. And then the guitar solo hits, and it is pure classic Willie gut string beauty.

Willie Nelson has made a record of unimaginable strength and beauty with Countryman. He has proven his talent not only as a songwriter and interpreter of other's songs, but as a musical mind capable of juxtaposing two fairly different styles and making them seem as close and comfortable as old friends. I'm not a big fan of reggae music, but this makes me take a few moments each time I listen to re-evaluate my feelings toward the sound.

-L. Keane

Track Listing:
1. Do You Mind Too Much If I Don't Understand
2. How Long Is Forever
3. I'm A Worried Man (featuring Toots Hibbert)
4. The Harder They Come
5. Something To Think About
6. Sitting In Limbo
7. Darkness On The Face Of The Earth
8. One In A Row
9. I've Just Destroyed The World
10. You Left A Long, Long Time Ago
11. I Guess I've Come To Live Here
Undo The Right


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